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Recently, Beijing had issues with severe smog.

I understand that too much smog can be unhealthy, but also that the likelihood of possible damage is probably related with the exposure time. For sunshine, one uses sunscreen for preventing to get too much sun-burnt. Which, if any, precautions should I take to prevent any smog-related issues?

While Beijing is the city mentioned, naturally this would apply to any city with high levels of smog cover.

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I just made the "air-quality" tag intended to become a synonym of the "smog" tag. Please vote for it if you can, or create it if you're a mod and agree. –  hippietrail Mar 9 at 8:54

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Smog is becoming more of a problem with urbanization, especially in developing countries with fewer restrictions on emissions control.

Smog in Mexico City (Mexico City smog (from Wikipedia))

In cities like Beijing, where it's a serious problem, there's often a government or city board that monitors it and provides warnings. In Beijing, that's the The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. Usually when smog levels are high or dangerous, they'll release a statement. So if you're concerned, keep an eye or ear out for their announcements.

What to do about it? Well one government, at least, has provided some suggestions. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) in Canada, produced a website on Precautions to take during Smog Alerts. The key points:

  • avoid exertion outdoors
  • replan activities for when smog levels are lower
  • stay away from high traffic areas (exhaust fumes make it worse)
  • stay in a well-ventilated place
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • if you experience any symptoms (shortness of breath, etc) seek medical attention!

They also have information on how you can help to reduce levels (on the same page).

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Avoiding outdoor activities to avoid smog only makes sense in areas with a high level of environmental control indoors. In the U.S. and Canada, most places have central heating/air, which does at least some level of air filtering, which helps. In many other places, breeze through windows is the main source of indoor environmental control, and staying indoors is not likely to provide much benefit in such cases--and may even be worse, as furniture, carpet, laundry absorb particles, and continue to release them into the air after the outdoor smog levels have dropped. –  Flimzy Dec 11 '13 at 10:55

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